How Long Does It Take To Knock Out A Person Using Chloroform? (2023)

Table of Contents (click to expand)
  • What Is Chloroform?
  • Where Is Chloroform Normally Found?
  • What Does Chloroform Smell Like?
  • Use Of Chloroform: What Is Chloroform Used For?
  • Chloroform Effects: What Does Chloroform Do?
  • How Long Does It Take For Chloroform To Work?
  • How Long Does Chloroform Keep A Person Unconscious?
  • Chloroform Risks: Hazards Associated With The Ingestion/consumption Of Chloroform
  • Can You Be Killed By Chloroform?
  • Is It Legal To Have Chloroform?
  • What To Do If You Are Exposed To Chloroform?

Chloroform is a colorless, sweet-smelling liquid with the IUPAC name trichloromethane and the chemical formula CHCl3. Chloroform is used as a solvent in the paper, construction and wood processing industries as well as in pesticide production. Chloroform can also numb or render people unconscious in small doses.

Pick a famous crime story, serial killer investigation or espionage movie and chances are that the following scene will unfold one way or another:

A villain sneaks behind a target and puts a rag over his mouth; after a few moments, the victim becomes weak on his knees and loses consciousness.

If you’re more interested in chemistry than action scenes, then this question has surely come into your head at some point: Does chloroform really knock someone out that quickly?

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What Is Chloroform?

Chloroform is a colorless, sweet-smelling organic compound with the IUPAC name trichloromethane and the chemical formula CHCl3. It is a dense liquid with tetrahedral molecular geometry with C3 symmetry. The structural formula of chloroform is given below:

How Long Does It Take To Knock Out A Person Using Chloroform? (1)

Chloroform’s structural formula

(Video) Chloroform | Does it really knock you out? | TESTED (Hindi/English Subtitles)

Chloroform is a highly volatile liquid that has been widely used throughout history due to its narcotic properties and has a reputation for anaesthetizing or rendering people unconscious, even when consumed in small doses.

In chemical jargon, chloroform is liquid trichloromethane and is produced on an industrial scale by heating a mixture of chlorine and either chloromethane or methane.

How Long Does It Take To Knock Out A Person Using Chloroform? (2)

Where Is Chloroform Normally Found?

Chloroform is a naturally occurring organic compound found in the air and in coastal waters, lakes, inland waters and groundwater. However, most of the chloroform found in the environment is produced by humans. Higher chloroform levels are found in industrial areas and in the air above swimming pools where the water has been disinfected with chlorine.

What Does Chloroform Smell Like?

Chloroform is a sweet-smelling liquid, similar to ether, along with a slightly sweet taste. Some people compare the smell to the smell of disinfectants, similar to the smell that is perceived in hospitals and medical facilities. We interviewed a number of chemists working in chemical laboratories who explained that the chloroform smell vaguely resembles the smell of acetone, an organic compound.

Use Of Chloroform: What Is Chloroform Used For?

  1. Chloroform is often used as a solvent in the chemical production of compounds.
  2. It is used in the paper, construction and woodworking industries.
  3. It is used in pesticide and film production.
  4. Chloroform is used to produce a refrigerant called Fluorocarbon 22.
  5. Chloroform is used as a solvent in floor polishes, lacquers, adhesives, resins, oils, alkaloids, fats and rubber.

Use Of Chloroform As An Anesthetic In The Past

Chloroform was first used as an anesthetic in 1847 by an obstetrician named James Young Simpson; he actually used it as an anesthetic on two people. A few days later, it was successfully used in a dental procedure in Edinburgh with no discernible adverse effects.

Soon, its popularity as an anesthetic soared to the point that it said that it was even used during the birth of Queen Victoria’s last two children in the 1850s. Its golden age, however, was short-lived, as it was gradually replaced by ether that was much safer than chloroform, and had virtually no side effects.

Chloroform Effects: What Does Chloroform Do?

The effect of chloroform on humans increases proportionally with its dosage. In small doses, chloroform can cause you to feel lethargic and disoriented, but with increasing dosage, you can quickly lose consciousness and feel no pain or sensation. In higher doses, it can lead to tense breathing, complete muscle relaxation and paralysis of the chest muscles, which can often be fatal.

The effects of chloroform on the human body largely depend on its dosage and method of administration.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health, “immediately or shortly after exposure to a chloroform level of 100 ppm (100,000 ppbv) in the air, a person may feel tired, dizzy, and have a headache.”

Chloroform is known for its anesthetic properties. If taken in small doses, it can numb or knock a person over, while in high concentrations it can be fatal.

Also Read: What Are The Most Dangerous Chemical Substances Known To Man?

(Video) How Long It Takes For Chloroform To Make A Person Unconscious?

There is some evidence that chloroform directly affects the central nervous system, along with the liver and kidneys; at high doses, it can cause respiratory depression and coma.

Although many of us associate chloroform with “a fluid in a rag that knocks people out,” its effects on the human body can be far more complex, and if not carefully monitored, chloroform can be fatal.

How Long Does It Take For Chloroform To Work?

In 1865, The Lancet, the medical journal, called upon any person, criminal or not, to prove that waving a chloroform drenched handkerchief was enough to knock someone out. No one has to date come forward with an answer.

While the right dose of chloroform soaked in a rag can definitely render you unconscious (the Lancet articles cites 5 minutes and persistance should knock someone out, but no experimental evidence was provided), it would take much longer than what they show in movies: you wouldn’t drop unconscious just by taking a whiff!

Issues Of Volatility

Chloroform is a volatile liquid, so it quickly loses its effectiveness when it comes into contact with air. Therefore, it is not a plausible scenario that the “villain holds a cloth soaked in chloroform while waiting for the victim to appear,” since the chloroform in the cloth would lose its effectiveness by the time it is actually pressed against the victim’s nose.

It is possible that a victim in such a situation will not faint simply because of the chloroform. Along with chloroform, the victim may faint due to suffocation, since putting a cloth over the nose and mouth would not allow the victim to breathe.

How Long Does Chloroform Keep A Person Unconscious?

Chloroform, if inhaled in very small doses, can keep a person unconscious from 20 minutes to 2 hours or even more, depending on how concentrated the dose is. Even when the person recovers, they may have symptoms like disorientation, vomiting, headache etc. If the dose is too concentrated, the person inhaling chloroform may potentially die. This is why chloroform is considered too dangerous to be used as an anesthetic.

Chloroform Risks: Hazards Associated With The Ingestion/consumption Of Chloroform

When ingested, chloroform is converted into a chemical called phosgene. Phosgene is toxic to cells, so the use of too much chloroform could cause cells to die.

If you look at how its use is portrayed in films and television, you might assume that it is just another liquid that is harmless to the victim, but that is absolutely wrong.

Some studies have shown a possible link between chloroform in chlorinated water and the occurrence of cancer of the colon and urinary bladder. Liver and kidney cancer developed in rats and mice who ate food or drank water containing large amounts of chloroform for long periods of time.

Can You Be Killed By Chloroform?

Chloroform can be very dangerous, to the point of being fatal to the victim if an inappropriate dose is administered or if the chloroform-soaked cloth is placed too tightly on their face.

For good reason, chloroform is no longer used as an anesthetic; it is a difficult task to determine the right dose that would render a person unconscious without affecting other vital nerve functions.

(Video) Why chloroform knocks you out !!!

Is It Legal To Have Chloroform?

In many countries, the government regulates the use and possession of Chloroform.

In the United States, possessing or using chloroform without a valid license is illegal. It is necessary to check with local laws before acquiring the substance. Chloroform is a controlled substance classified as a Schedule II drug by the government in US.

What To Do If You Are Exposed To Chloroform?

The first thing to do is to move away from the source of exposure as quickly as possible.

Also Read: What Happens When You Mix Bleach And Ammonia?

If the person exposed is already unconscious and unable to move independently, they should be removed from the source of chloroform exposure by others. Clothes that may have come into contact with chloroform should be removed and thrown away. Eyes and skin exposed to chloroform should be washed and rinsed with clean, uncontaminated water.

How well do you understand chloroform?

Can you answer three questions based on the article you just read?

How Long Does It Take To Knock Out A Person Using Chloroform? (3)

References (click to expand)
  1. Anesthesia and Queen Victoria -
  2. Chloroform | Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services
  3. (1865, October). Medical Annotations. The Lancet. Elsevier BV.
  4. Payne, J. P. (1998, July). The criminal use of chloroform. Anaesthesia. Wiley.
  5. Chloroform | NIOSH | CDC. Ease Control And Prevention
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How much chloroform is needed to make a person unconscious? ›

Chloroform levels of 3,000 – 30,000 ppm (14,670 – 146,700 mg m-3) were used to induce anaesthesia [2]. Inhalation of chloroform can cause severe acute toxicity, as described in the general toxicity section.

What does it feel like to be drugged with chloroform? ›

Symptoms include excitement and nausea followed by dizziness and drowsiness. More severe exposures to chloroform may cause heart problems, fitting, unconsciousness and in some cases death. Delayed effects (up to 48 hours after the exposure) of acute toxic chloroform exposure are liver and kidney damage.

How many hours does chloroform effect? ›

How Long Does Chloroform Keep A Person Unconscious? Chloroform, if inhaled in very small doses, can keep a person unconscious from 20 minutes to 2 hours or even more, depending on how concentrated the dose is. Even when the person recovers, they may have symptoms like disorientation, vomiting, headache etc.

How fast does ether knock you out? ›

Induction of ethyl ether anesthesia is therefore slow. To achieve deep anesthesia with ethyl ether in medical practice takes 15-25 min (35) (the concentration of ethyl ether used for the induction of anesthesia is usually 10 to 15 vol% or 308,000 to 462,000 mg/m³).

What works better than chloroform? ›

Dimethoxyethane (DME) is a colorless liquid that may be used a substitute for more hazardous chemicals such as chloroform.

What do kidnappers use to make you sleep? ›

What do kidnappers use to put people to sleep? Rohypnol. Rohypnol is a brand name for a powerful sedative that is often referred to as "roofies." Rohypnol is not legally available for prescription in the US and so just having it in your possession signals intent to commit a crime.

Which spray can make a person unconscious? › Chloroform Spray.

How do thieves use chloroform? ›

The victim is followed by the attackers, who wet a handkerchief with chloroform from a bottle, which is then placed over the nostrils of the target from behind. Unconsciousness is immediate, and the crime is committed.

Why do criminals use chloroform? ›

Chloroform, ether, nitrous oxide, gas, cocaine and possibly the other carbon compounds employed in producing anaesthesia possess the property of exciting sexual emotions and in many cases produce erotic hallucinations.

How do you make someone unconscious without hurting them? ›

There are a few ways to knock someone unconscious safely. One way is to use a chokehold. Another way is to use a sleeper hold.

What is the effect of chloroform on human body? ›

In humans, chloroform affects the central nervous system (brain), liver, and kidneys after a person breathes air or drinks liquids that contain large amounts of chloroform. Chloroform was used as an anesthetic during surgery for many years before its harmful effects on the liver and kidneys were recognized.

How long are you unconscious from ether? ›

While ether was effective as an anesthetic, it did have its shortcomings. It was highly flammable, and once it was released into the air, it could easily cause explosions. As well as this, patients often felt a chocking sensation, and because the onset could last up to 15 minutes, the patients had to be held down.

What happens if you sniff ether? ›

* Breathing Diethyl Ether can irritate the nose and throat. * Breathing Diethyl Ether can cause drowsiness, excitement, dizziness, vomiting, irregular breathing, and increased saliva. High exposure can cause unconsciousness and even death.

Is chloroform the same as ether? ›


Chloroform (Figure 1) is a halogenated hydrocarbon that, unlike ether, is not flammable but has significant toxicity, including carcinogenicity, hepato-, and nephrotoxicity.

Can you sleep with chloroform? ›

Chloroform is a sedative that works by causing relaxation and drowsiness. It's often used as an anesthetic for surgeries and other medical procedures. Chloroform is also used in some over-the-counter sleep aids. When used as a sleep aid, chloroform can be taken in pill form or inhaled.

Is chloroform just bleach and rubbing alcohol? ›

Bleach and rubbing alcohol create chloroform. This combination is highly toxic and can cause damage to your eyes, lungs, and liver.

Is chloroform the same as laughing gas? ›

The Use of Nitrous Oxide — Laughing Gas — Chloroform, &c. NEJM.

What drugs cause instant unconsciousness? ›

Antidepressants/Neuroleptic drugsBenzodiazepinesOther
MaprotilineLormetazepamVolatile anesthetic agents
45 more rows

What can I use to drug a person to sleep? ›

Types of prescription sleeping pills
Sleep medicationHelps you fall asleepCan lead to dependence
Ramelteon (Rozerem)
Suvorexant (Belsomra)
Temazepam (Restoril)
Triazolam (Halcion)
7 more rows

What do kidnappers use to make someone unconscious? ›

GHB, rohypnol and ketamine have become known as "predatory" or "date rape" drugs because they are used to incapacitate someone for the purposes of committing a crime, often sexual assault. These drugs are odorless and colorless and can easily be slipped into someone's drink.

Is there a spray to make someone sleep? ›

ZOLPIDEM (zole PI dem) treats insomnia. It helps you get to sleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night. It is often used for a short period of time.

What is the powder that makes you unconscious? ›

Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a central nervous system depressant. GHB is a clear, odorless liquid that looks like water and so can be added to a beverage without the person knowing it. It may also be used in the form of a white powder. GHB is also known as liquid ecstasy, G, or soap.

Do murderers use chloroform? ›

But although rarely used for murder, chloroform is nonetheless dangerous and was historically responsible for hundreds of deaths due to misapplication, says Linda Stratmann, author of Chloroform: the Quest for Oblivion, which traces the history of the now-obsolete anesthetic.

Does chloroform show up in an autopsy? ›

Fatal level of chloroform was detected in the blood and tissues by gas chromatographic/mass spectrometric analysis.

Can someone be knocked out for hours? ›

In around 75 to 90% of cases where a person loses consciousness for only a few moments, people fully recover within a few months. Longer knockouts, such as being unconscious for hours, days or weeks, could mean that injuries are so severe that they're unlikely to be fully recovered from in the future.

Can unconscious patients hear? ›

Can Your Loved One Hear You? During a coma, the individual is unconscious, meaning they are unable to respond to any sounds. However, the brain may still be able to pick up on sounds from loved ones. In fact, some studies suggest talking and touching a loved one while they are in a coma may help them recover.

Is it easy to knock someone unconscious? ›

If you land the punch in the right place and with enough speed, it takes surprisingly little force to knock someone out. The goal is typically to get the person's head to rotate quickly and suddenly rather than to hit them really hard.

Is chloroform legal in the US? ›

It was used as an anesthetic prior to World War II, but this use has been banned. In addition, the U.S. FDA has banned its use in drugs, cosmetics, and food packaging (Kirk-Othmer 1979, ATSDR 1997).

Was ether used to put people to sleep? ›

The discovery of ether for the use as an anesthetic was in 1846 which marked the birth of a modern age in anesthesiology. Although its use has been abandoned in the developed world, ether was safely and effectively used as an inhalation anesthetic for over one hundred years.

Will ether knock me out? ›

Will ether knock me out? Vapors from the potent ether can knock people out faster than a ninja. Once unconscious, anyone that is under the influence of the drug is helpless if their airway becomes obstructed.

Is chloroform still used today? ›

Until the mid-1900s, chloroform was used as an anesthetic to reduce pain during medical procedures. Today, it is not used in this way due to its harmful effects.

What kind of high do you get from ether? ›

Effects. The effects of ether intoxication are similar to those of alcohol intoxication, but more potent. Also, due to NMDA antagonism, the user may experience distorted thinking, euphoria, and visual/auditory hallucinations at higher doses.

What does ether do to the human body? ›

The effect of ether is dose-dependent. Symptoms consist of skin, eye, and mucosal irritation leading to an increase in bronchial secretions. Dizziness, drowsiness, bradycardia, hypothermia, or acute excitement may also occur. Laryngospasm, loss of consciousness, and death may result.

Why did doctors stop using ether? ›

During the Civil War, chloroform was used whenever it was available to reduce the pain and trauma of amputation or other procedures. Usage of ether and chloroform later declined after the development of safer, more effective inhalation anesthetics, and they are no longer used in surgery today.

What was chloroform replaced with? ›

Chloroform was gradually replaced in the first half of the 20th century by the safer (although highly inflammable) ether, which is still used as an inexpensive anaesthetic today in some developing nations.

Which is safer chloroform or ether? ›

Ether, a far safer anesthetic but far less popular over the years, had fatal complications roughly ever 1:15,000 uses. Chloroform, on the other hand, had fatal complications roughly ever 1:3,000. By the early 1930s, nitrous oxide had been discovered which was far safer of an anesthetic and is still used today.

How much chloroform is fatal? ›

Schroeder (1965) reported that a fatal oral dose of chloroform may be as little as 10 mL (14.8 g), with death due to respiratory or cardiac arrest. Gosselin et al. (1984) estimate that the mean lethal oral dose is 44 g for humans.

How much chloroform is used as an anesthetic? ›

When using the inhalational agent for induction of anaesthesia, the vaporiser was set initially at 1 % and this was increased by 0.5 % every 4 breaths or so until a concentration of 3 % was reached for chloroform and 4 % for halothane.

Can you pass out from drinking chloroform? ›

Chloroform, which is toxic to the central nervous system, can cause a person to become unconsciousness and even be fatal at high doses.

What happens if you smell too much chloroform? ›

Effects of overexposure 1. Short-term Exposure: Chloroform vapor may cause headache, drowsiness, vomiting, dizziness, uncon- sciousness, irregular heart beat, and death. Liver and kidney damage may also result from exposure to chloro- form vapor.

What does chloroform smell like? ›

Chloroform is a clear liquid with an ether-like odor and a slightly sweet taste.

Does mixing bleach and alcohol make chloroform? ›

Bleach and rubbing alcohol create chloroform. This combination is highly toxic and can cause damage to your eyes, lungs, and liver. Combining these products can create peracetic / peroxyacetic acid, which can be highly corrosive and irritate your eyes, skin, and respiratory tract.

Can I use chloroform to help me sleep? ›

If you're struggling to get a good night's sleep, you may be considering using chloroform as a sleep aid. After all, chloroform is known for its ability to induce sleep. Unfortunately, chloroform is also highly dangerous. When used as a sleep aid, chloroform can cause serious respiratory problems and even death.

What's the easiest way to knock someone unconscious? ›

Knockout Target 1: The Jaw

The jaw is the easiest knockout target to access, because it's the biggest of the 3 targets we're going after. Some of the most common strikes to attack the jaw area with sufficient force to cause the knockout include: the cross. the hook.

What chemical makes you unconscious instantly? ›

Chloroform is a highly volatile liquid that has been widely used throughout history due to its narcotic properties and has a reputation for anaesthetizing or rendering people unconscious, even when consumed in small doses.


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